I meet with a lot of folks in the investment advisor and broker community. It never ceases to amaze me when they inquire how our practice is set up and how we manage to "make money" servicing retirement plans. Usually it's coming from a competitor who dabbles in our space citing the time they spend on it, or one who thinks they want to "get into the retirement plan business." I'll tell you how we do it and I'll tell you why you shouldn't hire a generalist to serve as your retirement plan's advisor.
1. We aren't forced to meet sales and product quotas.
This means we don't have to sell specific products that fall into certain categories so that our payout schedule is at its maximum or bonus level. We sell advice, not products, and we own our company independently so we don't have a "payout grid."
2. We are set up specifically to service retirement plans.
Servicing our retirement plan clients doesn't get in the way of our business, It IS our business! For example, we know that 5500s were due yesterday and we we know which of our clients already filed (because we have an ongoing dialogue with them all year). That knowledge isn't an inconvenience to us; it's our job.
3. We know our stuff.
Our background and experience in financial services is in retirement plans. We don't waste time researching every question because we usually already know the answer. We don't have to keep track of the latest variable universal life insurance policies, health insurance rules, or college funding strategies because we don't sell them. We don't use the plan as a loss-leader to support our financial planning practice. Because our focus isn't diluted, we are a well-oiled machine when it comes to solving retirement plan problems and providing service to them.
4. Our clients know what services we provide.
When you're up to your eyeballs in understanding what your client's day is like, you know what they care about and what types of services they need. Our contracts reflect the services that we provide…which are all centered on making retirement plans less burdensome and providing investment advice. (Note: If your advisor/broker says "Contract? Service agreement?" you should shop for a new one.) We proactively deliver what matters to our clients, tailored to their plan, employees, and needs.
Sure, a generalist might be able to help you with an investment policy statement, but they probably won't know how to evaluate providers to specifically fit your needs and constraints, what kind of QDIA your employees need, when your testing refund is due, how to fix that testing failure…and so on.
I'm sure they'll say all of that are the vendors' responsibility. I'm sure they can help you figure out how to make your personal financial plan make sense for your goals. But, I'm also sure they're leaving gaping holes behind in servicing your retirement plan, some of which could be costly to you or your employees down the road.
Bottom line, if you need spinal surgery, you go to a spine surgeon, not a family doctor. Likewise, if you have a retirement plan, you should go to a Planologist, not a generalist financial advisor who complains your plan is too much work for too little pay!
Courtenay Shipley has a diverse background in the retirement plan industry providing a unique foundation for her clients in the areas of fiduciary responsibility, investment analysis, and participant education. During her career she has provided institutional investment consulting to qualified retirement plans, developed business strategy for a boutique third party administrator and recordkeeper, conducted over 9,000 education meetings to groups and individual employees, and served the nonprofit market.
She is the founder of Retirement Planology and a facilitator of several Her Corner groups.
You can view her profile HERE.